Cooking Terms and Techniques

Whether you are just learning the universal joy of cooking, or feel yourself to be a veteran, often we run across terms in recipes that leave us staring at the words indefinitely, completely baffled. What on earth is a roux? What exactly do they mean by clarified butter? These, and many other terms, have baffled more people than we know. So we have put together a list of common cooking terms, meanings, and additional information to help you along in the kitchen.

AL DENTE: "to the tooth" Italian term used to describe pasta that is cooked until it offers a slight resistance to the bite. Appropriate for long thin noodles such as linguini, capellini and spaghetti.

BAKE: To cook by dry heat, usually in the oven.

BARBECUE: Usually used generally to refer to grilling done outdoors or over an open charcoal or wood fire. More specifically, barbecue refers to long, slow direct- heat cooking, including liberal basting with a barbecue sauce.

BASTE: To moisten foods during cooking with pan drippings or special sauce to add flavor and prevent drying.

BATTER: A mixture containing flour and liquid, thin enough to pour.

BEAT: To mix rapidly in order to make a mixture smooth and light by incorporating as much air as possible.

BEURRE MANIE: Literally "kneaded butter" and also known as "uncooked roux". An effective thickening agent made by combining equal parts of all-purpose flour and butter into a soft paste by hand or with the side of a knife on a cutting board. Beurre Manie is often used in small amounts (about 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of flour) and whisked in to boiling/reducing liquids. It is necessary to cook a liquid thickened with beurre manie (and roux, for that matter) about 10 minutes to eliminate the taste of flour.

BLANCH: To immerse in rapidly boiling water and allow to cook slightly or fully, followed by "shocking" in ice water to halt the cooking process. Usually applies to vegetables.

BLEND: To incorporate two or more ingredients thoroughly.

BOIL: To heat a liquid until bubbles break continually on the surface. At sea level boiling occurs at 212°.

BOUQUET GARNI: A tied bundle of herbs, usually parsley, thyme, and bay leaves, that is added to flavor soups, stews, and sauces but removed before serving.

BREAD: To coat with crumbs or cornmeal before cooking. Standard breading procedure involves dusting foods in seasoned flour or other starch, dipping in beaten egs, then coating with crumbs.

BROIL: To cook on a grill or pan under strong, direct heat.

BUTTERFLY: The practice of cross-cutting a steak or chop mid-thickness and just shy of completely through. This cut allows the meat to open up like the wings of a butterfly to reduce cooking time and facilitate more thorough cooking. Often recommended for cooking meats well-done.

CARAMELIZE: To heat sugar in order to turn it brown and develop its flavor. This term applies to processed sugars as well as naturally ocurring sugars in many fruits, vegetables and protiens.

CHIFFONADE: Lettuces, sorrel, basil leaves and other leafy vegetables cut into fine julienne strips.

CHOP: To cut solids into pieces with a sharp knife or other chopping device. Pieces can be irregular, but size should be reasonably uniform.

CLARIFY: To separate and remove solids from a liquid, thus making it clear. In reference to clarified butter, this means heating butter until the butterfat seperates and then reserving the butterfat and boiling off or otherwise discarding the remaining solids and water. Clarifying liquids and stocks is somewhat more involved. See °consomme°

CONSOMME: A clarified, flavorful broth prepared by adding beaten egg whites, ground meat and tomato, then simmering slowly. The added ingredients slowly coagulate into a "raft", which traps all solids. Once the raft is removed and the liquid is strained you are left with consommé.

CREAM: In baking, to soften a fat, especially butter, by beating it at room temperature. Butter and sugar are often creamed together, making a smooth, pale, soft paste. This is best accomplished with a paddle attachment and is a critical step in preparing many cakes and cookies.

CURE: To preserve protiens (meats, poultry and fish) by brining in a salt solution or packing in a curing mix.

DEGLAZE: Adding liquid to a hot pan in which foods have been sautéed, fried or roasted to dissolve the caramelized juices stuck to the bottom of the pan.. This is best accomplished with an acidic liquid such as wine or lemon juice (but even water will work), followed by scraping the pan with a surface-safe utensil. This step captures the flavor developed in a pan and can be finished in various ways to create a sauce. Deglazing is one of the defining steps of proper saute technique.

DEGREASE: To remove fat from the surface of stews, soups, or stock. Usually cooled in the refrigerator so that fat hardens and is easily removed, although can be accomplished during cooking.

DICE: To cut food in small cubes of uniform size and shape.

DISSOLVE: To cause a dry substance to pass into solution in a liquid.

DREDGE: To sprinkle or coat with flour or other fine substance, often involves shaking any excess coating free.

DRIZZLE: To sprinkle drops of liquid lightly over food in a casual manner.

DUST: To sprinkle food with dry ingredients. Use a strainer or a jar with a perforated cover, or try the good, old-fashioned way of shaking things together in a paper bag.

EMULSION: A mixture of oil and liquid in which tiny globules of one are suspended in the other. Stabilizers, such as egg or mustard may be used. Classic example is vinaigrette salad dressing.

FILLET: As a verb, to remove the bones from meat or fish. A fillet (or filet) is the piece of flesh without bones.

FINES HERBES: A mixture of herbs traditionally parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon, used to flavor fish, chicken, and eggs.

FLAKE: To break lightly into small pieces.

FLAMBE': To flame foods by dousing in some form of potable alcohol and setting alight.

FOLD: To incorporate a delicate substance, such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites, into another substance of different weight in a way that minimizes loss of volume. Cut down through mixture with spoon, whisk, or fork; go across bottom of bowl, up and over, close to surface. The process is repeated, while slowing rotating the bowl, until the ingredients are thoroughly blended.

FRICASSEE: To cook by braising; usually applied to fowl or rabbit.

FRY: To cook in hot fat after foods ahave been coated in a batter or bread crumbs. °Pan frying° is accomplished with two inches or less of oil (such as with pork chops), foods need to be turned. "Deep Fat Frying" occurs when foods are completely submerged. This fast method is best suited to tender meats.

GARNISH: To decorate a dish both to enhance its appearance and to provide a flavorful foil. Parsley, lemon slices, raw vegetables, chopped chives, and other herbs are all forms of garnishes.

GLAZE: To baste or coat with a sweet or sweet/savory sauce.

GRATE: To rub on a grater that separates the food in various sizes of bits or shreds.

GRATIN: From the French word for "crust." Term used to describe any oven-baked dish--usually cooked in a shallow oval gratin dish--on which a golden brown crust of bread crumbs, cheese or creamy sauce is form.

GRATINEE: To brown on top.

GRILL: To cook on a grill over intense heat.

GRIND: To process solids by hand or mechanically to crush them to tiny particles.

JULIENNE: To cut vegetables, fruits, or cheeses into thin matchstick shaped strips.

KNEAD: To work and press dough with the palms of the hands or mechanically, to develop the gluten in the flour.

LUKEWARM: Neither cool nor warm; approximately body temperature.

MARINATE: To flavor and moisturize pieces of meat, poultry, seafood or vegetables by soaking them in or brushing them with a liquid mixture of seasonings known as a marinade. Dry marinade mixtures composed of salt, pepper, herbs or spices may also be rubbed into meat, poultry or seafood. Marinating imparts flavor and often tenderizes protiens.

MINCE: To cut or chop food into extremely small pieces.

MIX: To combine ingredients, usually by stirring.

PAN-FRY: To cook in smaller amounts of fat.

PARBOIL: To boil until partially cooked. Usually this procedure is followed by final cooking, using some other method.

PARE: To remove the outermost skin of a fruit or vegetable.

PEEL: To remove the peels from vegetables or fruits.

PICKLE: To preserve meats, vegetables, and fruits in brine.

PINCH: A pinch is the trifling amount you can hold between your thumb and forefinger.

PIT: To remove pits from fruits.

PLANKED: Baked on a thick hardwood plank.

PLUMP: To soak dried fruits in liquid until they swell.

POACH: To cook very gently in hot liquid kept just below the boiling point.

PUREE: To mash foods until perfectly smooth by hand, by rubbing through a sieve or food mill, or by whirling in a blender or food processor. A puree should be completely smooth.

REDUCE: To boil a liquid so that it diminishes in water volume and intensifies in flavor.

REFRESH or Shock: To run cold water over food that has been parboiled or to submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process quickly.

RENDER: To make solid fat into liquid by melting it slowly.

ROAST: To cook by dry heat in an oven, foods are usually coated in a fat to promote even heating and a carmelized exterior.

SAUTE: To cook and/or brown food in a small amount of hot fat. The French translates to °jump° and refers to the fliping and tossing of ingredients to control heat. In the strict definition, the method involves high heat, deglazing and an integral sauce production in the same pan, the primary ingredient often finishes cooking in the sauce.

SCALD: To bring to a temperature just below the boiling point.

SCALLOP: To bake a food, usually in a casserole, with sauce or other liquid. Crumbs often are sprinkled over.

SCORE: To cut narrow grooves or gashes partway through the outer surface of food.

SEAR: To brown very quickly by intense heat. This method increases shrinkage but develops flavor and improves appearance.

SHRED: To cut or tear in small, long, narrow pieces.

SIFT: To put one or more dry ingredients through a sieve or sifter.

SIMMER: To cook slowly in liquid over low heat at a temperature of about 180°. The surface of the liquid should be barely moving, broken from time to time by slowly rising bubbles.

SKIM: To remove impurities, whether scum or fat, from the surface of a liquid during cooking, thereby resulting in a clear, cleaner-tasting final produce. This is a typical step when cooking stocks, soups and sauces and can be performed with a skimmer or ladle.

STEAM: To cook in steam in a pressure cooker, deep well cooker, double boiler, or a steamer made by fitting a rack in a kettle with a tight cover. A small amount of boiling water is used, more water being added during steaming process, if necessary.

STEEP: To extract color, flavor, or other qualities from a substance by leaving it in water just below the boiling point.

STEW: To simmer slowly in a small amount of liquid or fat for a long time.

STIR: To mix ingredients with a circular motion until well blended or of uniform consistency.

TOSS: To combine ingredients with a lifting motion.

TRUSS: To secure poultry with string or skewers, to hold its shape while cooking.

WHIP: To beat rapidly to incorporate air and produce expansion, as in heavy cream or egg whites.
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